September 17, 2017
I'm in the middle of my varsity boys high school tennis season and it has occurred to me that during a close match that is not coached, the probability of winning the match is based a lot on luck, not strategy. I want to give you some tips to move the probability in your favor. Other than the video at the end of this blog that gives some tips to improve your chances of winning, I have a few that I would like to write about as well. Hopefully the two sources of information can give you enough to change the outcome of your close loses to victories!
Tip 1: Notice Your Opponents Strengths and Weaknesses
Last week I watched my 1 doubles team during the first set and after just 3 games I noticed the trend that was pretty apparent to why their opponents were winning the match. As we talked during a changeover it was obvious that they had no idea what was going on. I mentioned that the other players haven't hit one backhand in the set yet. That wouldn't be a problem if that wasn't their weakness but it was, making it a very difficult match to win when hitting to their opponent's strengths. It's one thing to not be able to hit it to their weakness and another thing to not notice. This trend seems to occur throughout my experience of watching and coaching matches. Whether it be singles or doubles; it seems to be a 10 to 1 ratio of forehand winners to backhand winners that I witness. To combat this, try to work on serving to corners of the box so that you can hit to your opponents weaknesses. This is the same during groundstrokes. The ability to hit targets is essential to increasing your chances of winning. This is also important in double.s For example, knowing were the forehand volley is on the return is important. If you are returning on the deuce side and the player at the net on the other side is a righty, you need to be careful of putting a ball down the middle where their forehand volley is. It's a much easier volley for your opponent when hitting forehand volleys vs. backhand volleys.
Tip 2: What To Pick If You Win The Spin
When you spin the racquet to decide how the beginning of the match will start, consider something I've told my teams in the past. First, check the conditions. If the wind or sun is a huge factor, chose the side that benefits you the most. The sun's factor is obvious but the wind can be a bit different than you think. If you are nervous or have a hard time moving forward, choose hitting into the wind. It will keep the ball in and make it harder for your to hit long. If you have a lot of spin on the other hand, I would recommend the wind to your back so you can use the spin to dip the ball into the court with the wind pushing the ball forward even more. If the weather isn't a factor and you win the toss, choose return. Most matches I've seen have a double fault happen in the first game. Also, most recreational servers are not that strong so you are getting an opportunity to hit a short ball on their serve which is even more of an advantage during second serves. Also consider the fact that you are "supposed" to hold serve. There is added pressure in the beginning of the game to do this and if you're not firing on all cylinders I would think that returning would put the pressure off of you.
Tip 3: Changing It Up After A Set
If "Plan A" isn't working, consider a different approach. For example, a singles player on my team lost the first set rather quickly to his opponent so he serve and volleyed as well as came in on second serve returns in the beginning of the first set. He ended up winning 3 games in a row. For doubles, think about changing sides on the return. A switch gives a different look and possibly allows a better chance of breaking your opponents serve. Also make sure the player that is holding serve the easiest is serving the second set. This is entirely legal and should be done no matter what happens after the second set!
Want A Few More Tips?
Try these tips found in a video I made that follows the same kind of theme but with some other ideas that might help you improve your game! Good luck!